In this short series of blogs, I’ll be applying my Viewpoint framework to explain why I think context, yes what I call Viewpoint, is so critical to Breakthrough, High Velocity B2B Marketing. With deference to my friend and mentor Matt Church, who taught me not be afraid of “nested context”, here we go!
First, let’s define who I am talking to in this column and target the discussion firmly at B2B Technology Marketers. With that context, let’s take a look at the vertical axis of the Viewpoint framework, the B2B Tech Marketers world, and contrast the “old world” to the “new world”. Three fundamental shifts have occurred in the marketing and selling of B2B products and services; 1) information overload 2) the rise of the independent buyer and 3) the abundance of alternative investments. Let’s take a quick look at each of these.
1) Information overload – In the old world, information was tightly held and doled out by vendors based on the “qualification” of the prospect. Due to this stinginess of sharing, very expensive intermediaries arose in these markets, such as Gartner, Forrester and others. Today, vendors rush to share information, Google and social networks have become the new information intermediaries, and the analyst are just one source of many. Buyers have gone from SEARCHING or paying for scarce information to SORTING and triaging abundant information, from scarcity of supply to overload of supply.
2) The rise of the independent buyer – The Corporate Executive Board has published research that says 57% of the typical B2B sales cycle is over before the first sales contact with the vendor. In response to the great availability of information, buyers are becoming fiercely independent. They do research on their own, they network on social networks such as LinkedIn and easily find knowledgeable peers, and they pick and choose what content to read, and what to pay attention to. In short, we are now in the era of the “Buying Cycle” and NOT the “Sales Cycle”.
3) Alternative Abundance – Fundamental shifts in cost of solution creation and delivery, and the relentless drive down the cost curve, means that B2B marketers compete with many more competitors AND alternative solutions. In the old world ROI ruled the world. It was a land of feature, function, benefit. Today, ROI is table stakes. The real battle is strategic importance, first at a category level and then at a provider level. As Forrester has pointed out in their research, buyers want to be taught something, they want strategic insight into THEIR business from vendors. In a world off choice, Return on Strategy is real hurdle to jump.
These three shift can be summarized in the following table:
Three Shifts in the World of B2B Sales and Marketing
|Old World||New World||Implication|
|Information||Scare||Abundant||From Search to Triage|
|Buyers||Dependent||Independent||From Sales Cycle to Buying Cycle|
|Alternatives||Few||Many||From ROI Hurdle to RO-Strategy Hurdle|
This new world is can be a daunting one for B2B Sales and Marketing executives. It can create havoc with traditional communication and selling strategies and techniques. In the next blog, we will focus on how messaging strategy must be re-invented in order to win in this new world of information abundance, independent buyers and many alternative solutions.